My Notes from The Power Within: Discovering the Path to Elite Goaltending
By Coach Damon on April 23, 2018
I finished reading The Power Within: Discovering the Path to Elite Goaltending by Dallas Stars goaltending coach Mike Valley and USA Hockey goaltending scout Justin Goldman awhile back.
The authors give us a great glimpse of how elite goalies overcome different emotional and mental obstacles in their careers to gain an edge on the competition when it comes to the toughest aspects of playing the position of goalie.
While this book inspired several posts to the blog, I realized I never posted my full notes which many of you might find valuable.
The Power Within is a book about ice hockey goalies but it focuses so much on the mental side of the game that it’s 100% applicable to lacrosse goalies.
In fact, if you replace the word “puck” with “ball” and “ice” with “field” throughout the book, you could make a strong argument it was written for lacrosse goalies.
My Notes from The Power Within
Below you’ll find the passages I highlighted from the book and then a few of my own comments under each quote.
That means you are an athlete capable of achieving whatever you dream. But you won’t reach those dreams if you don’t have a relentless belief in yourself and your ability to learn, grow, evolve, and trust the process.
Here they’re talking about self-confidence and believing in yourself. Confidence matters and top goalies have a unshakable belief in their abilities.
As a young goalie maybe you must believe in yourself. You must believe that the hard work you are putting in will improve your goalie game.
Becoming great in between the pipes is a process. All top goalies will tell you that! You must trust the process.
This mindset will help you achieve your goals.
Every elite goalie will tell you that training the mind is the same type of process as training the body – experience is the key. It is only through grueling years of work that you finally reach the peak of performance.
Most goalies and coaches understand that they’re not going to step into the gym for the 1st time and squat twice their body weight.
It takes time to get there. Starting at lower weight and working your way up with grueling training process.
Same goes for the mental game. In the same way we train our bodies, we must train our minds. And getting experience in successfully handling different situations is the training that helps a lax goalie reach peak performance.
In the realm of goaltending, an unhealthy body will reduce reaction speeds, tighten key muscles like the groin and hamstrings, hinder the ability to track pucks, and diminish your ability to move with power and control at the key moments.
Your body is your save temple and you must treat it as such.
Healthy food, exercising, yoga – all these are activities that keep the body in great shape and help us make saves.
You can work on your save technique and seeing shots until the cows come home but if your body is unhealthy, your reaction speed will suffer and you won’t make as many saves.
“Paralysis by Analysis” This mantra points to the important concept that the more we actually make conscious thoughts in the crease, the more likely we are to over-think situations and lack the timing or rhythm needed to make the big save. It is usually at the moment of thinking consciously about what to do next that the puck is whizzing past us. But by training the body rigorously and consistently, muscle memory develops, and that allows the mind to move the body more effectively, and in a more subconscious manner.
I wrote a full post on the 4 stages of lacrosse goalie development that I initially got from this book.
In the early stages of learning goalie we have to think consciously about the movements required to make a save. A young goalie hasn’t yet developed the muscle memory needed to put the save motion on auto pilot and just react to where the shot is going.
But with experience and drills you can achieve what’s called “Unconscious Competence” where your mind isn’t thinking about saves but is free giving us the focus, timing, and rhythm that’s needed to make beautiful saves.
It is this child-like state of mind that elite goalies are able to reach, because they understand the role the mind plays when it comes to executing their technique in a competitive environment. This proves that even you have the ability to achieve “Flow” and out-perform someone else with more skill, but only after you learn how to control your mind and your thoughts when it matters most. Whether or not the physical body has the capacity to make flawless saves at an elite level matters not, because as you will learn in ensuing chapters, it’s all in how you prepare yourself to play the game.
I love that phrase ‘child-like state of mind’ which to me is all about having fun.
I played a lot of sports growing up (basketball, soccer, baseball, wrestling, tennis) and lacrosse was by far the most fun. But sometimes goalies get so stressed by the mental taxation of this position they forget why they started playing lacrosse in the first place.
They forget the beauty of this game and how fun it is. Typically when you go back to having fun, you enter this child-like state of mind that allows goalies to play loose and play better.
Your spirit is also your willingness to believe that something greater than your own physical abilities exists within you.
This quote touches on self-belief. Elite goalies can tap into this belief that something greater is possible.
Work is still considered fun, losing is considered as a slight bump in the road, giving up bad goals is considered part of the process, and winning is considered as one small step in the right direction.
Remember above when I talked about trusting the process?
Well that process is going to include losing. That process is going to include giving up a goal on a soft shot.
Understand that setbacks are part of the process and never let them defeat you! Continue to have fun and with each victory you move a step in the right direction.
The truth is that nobody can be at their best until they’re fully committed. And that’s not only physically speaking, but especially mentally speaking. If you’re not committed 100-percent into it, you can never totally be at your best and you can never become an elite goalie.
Not much more to add to this one. Either you’re 100% committed to this position or you won’t improve. It’s that simple.
One of the coolest yet strangest viewpoint in sports is when a goaltender gets scored on. Whether it’s in peewees or at the pros, everyone looks at you. How you handle yourself immediately after that and the mannerisms you display are so powerful in terms of the confidence of your team, how the momentum shifts will go, how you’re going to play, and what the other team thinks in regards to scoring again. It’s an unenviable position to be in, one that carries so much power and persuasion that it is almost unfair. I promise you, when you have a guy that routinely handles it poorly – with his arms in the air, looking around at his teammates, or blaming others it hurts the team
This quote inspired a full post on how to handle yourself after giving up a goal.
It’s such a powerful quote that I suggest all goalies read and internalize this passage.
I think the one thing I’ve learned about being a pro is the importance of making sure you show up every day to compete.
One thing that takes a lacrosse goalie from good to great is consistency. Many goalies have days when they’re seeing beach balls and making save after save.
But can you do that on a consistent basis? That is what being an elite goalie is all about.
A main part of building consistency and what makes pros so great is that they never take a practice off. They never have an off day as they show up ready to compete and ready to improve every single practice.
Talk a little bit about how you mentally approach practices and how it influence your game? Bachman: “I think working hard in practice and not letting the guys score reflects on the goalie himself as a competitor, as wanting to get better, and I think the players on your team feed off that. And because of that, they have a little more confidence in you heading into a game. That’s what you need – you need them to be confident in you to get the job done and when they are, they do their job.
How can you gain the confidence of your team as a young goalie? Work hard.
Being the hardest worker on the team not only gives your team confidence in you but it also provides the team with energy that they can feed on.
Defenseman play better when they have a confident goalie behind them. So work hard for their sake!
While it’s written by ice hockey goalies for ice hockey goalies, the book The Power Within: Discovering the Path to Elite Goaltending is a fantastic read for lacrosse goalies.
It’s deals with a lot of the mental aspects of the goalie position and there are a lot of gold nuggets of wisdom within these pages.
This post are all the highlights from the book and my commentary on each. Hopefully you learned something or got a little motivation.
Until next time! Coach Damon